A tremendous amount of ingenuity has been on display throughout 2020 as Americans fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies and individuals across the country have looked for ways to support essential workers, teachers, and affected families.
It is in this environment that the team at BMarko™ Structures managed to pull off something truly extraordinary. They designed, developed, and installed 48 modular ICUs – called Liberty Boxes – at two hospitals in Georgia. Impressively, the firm did so in less than three weeks.
The massive amount of work involved was pushed forward by pure determination and razor-sharp focus, along with the support of a larger community collaborating together to meet a dire need.
Antony Kountouris, CEO of BMarko, knew that he wanted to help at the start of the pandemic. His company, which traditionally develops office spaces, mixed-use units, and entertainment centers from used shipping containers, could offer a specialized value proposition by transforming shipping containers into modular intensive care units (ICUs) for hospitals.
The idea was sound, but it would take a team of experts to execute it. The first step was to design the blueprints. Hospital ICUs need to be comfortable as well as functional. They have specific HVAC needs and sterilization code guidelines. Doctors, nurses, and patients all need positive experiences in the units in order for them to be used.
To meet this specialized healthcare need, Kountouris turned to BMarko’s architecture and design lead, Heather Cohen. Cohen, who has architectural experience in both the healthcare and hospitality fields, had the background, skillset, and fortitude needed to design the Liberty Boxes quickly.
Following two days of near non-stop designing, she had blueprints ready to go.
Once the BMarko team had a design in place, they accelerated all efforts to bring it to production. This was no easy task. They had no working factory, and needed to hire the bulk of their manufacturing team. While Kountouris expeditiously negotiated a factory contract, the rest of the BMarko team got to work on staffing for the project. Within a few days of posting job listings, calling recruiters, and identifying the best talent available, they hired 130 employees.
The manufacturing process wasn’t an easy road. Apart from Cohen, the BMarko team had never designed for the healthcare industry before and they needed to balance their attention to detail with a timeline where every second mattered.
Procurement challenges during production had BMarko employees constantly running out to Home Depot for items that they needed. At one point, BMarko teams went to Home Depot 18 times in one day. They eventually cleared out the local stores of the parts they needed, and had to drive to more distant stores to meet production demands.
During the development process, BMarko had workers at the factory and in the offices from 7 am to 2 am each day. Lives were in the balance, and everyone knew that there was no time to slow down.
As Kountouris and his team scrambled to develop the modular ICUs, word started to spread about the project. CertainTeed employees discovered what BMarko was doing, and realized this was an opportunity to further contribute in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. CertainTeed R&D Director Dennis Michaud reached out to Kountouris, and was told he was free for a call at any point from 9 pm to 1 am. They spoke for the first time that same evening.
“I asked him to give us a list of what they needed, and promised to do all we could to accommodate. He explained that another manufacturer had offered to sell them the insulation and ceilings materials they needed for close to $20,000. After a series of meetings among CertainTeed leadership, we made an agreement to donate the insulation and ceilings products.”
It was now CertainTeed’s turn to scramble. Within a week, BMarko had received the fiberglass insulation and Vinylrock™ ceiling panels that they needed. The effort even extended beyond CertainTeed’s own warehouses, as distributor partners and contractors accepted material delays and also returned materials they had already purchased to help BMarko.
“The response was overwhelming,” Michaud said, “Customers and their clients were eager to help. If waiting for a different batch of materials could save lives, then our distributors and customers were on board.”
From start to finish, it took BMarko less than 3 weeks to convert 48 shipping containers into modular ICUs – including the factory opening and hiring processes. The company shipped the units within a week.
In a normal situation, BMarko provides a six-week lead time for every two modular units delivered. They finished this project 25 times faster than they otherwise would.
The work was finished quickly and done well. The doctors and nurses were impressed by the quality, and the Governor of Georgia called the units one of the best decisions the state made related to the pandemic. As a further show of their willingness to help, the team at BMarko has made the designs for their modular ICUs publicly available. Now other companies can help hospitals in their regions using a proven and well-received design.
Most companies and local municipalities are just trying to survive the pandemic. However, once the dust clears and everyone has time to look around, it’s companies like BMarko Structures that will stand out because of their dedication to their communities at a time of need.
Learn more about BMarko Structures at https://bmarkostructures.com/
Learn more about how CertainTeed helped at https://www.certainteed.com/commercial-ceilings/bmarko-case-study/